In the first weeks of Harper’s majority government the Conservative Party of Canada has started to push for it’s tough on crime legislation.
The new omnibus bill would institute stricter penalties for possession and trafficking of illiict drugs. Under the proposed bill someone growing more than 201 pot plants in a rental unit would receive a longer mandatory sentence than someone who had sexually assaulted a child.
This is comes in sharp contrast to the Supreme Court of Canada ruling this week in favor of keeping Insite, the group that runs a safe injection site in Vancouver, open. The 9-0 decision severely disappointed the federal government, but they have no choice but to comply. The Conservatives will most likely seek a review of the decision, despite the overwhelming evidence that safe injection sites help deal with addiction.
The ruling rejected the government’s stance that safe injection sites foster drug addiction. It also told the government to extend the exemption to Insite staff to protect them from possession and trafficking charges. The judges agreed that closing the facility would violate the rights of addicts living in one of the worst neighborhoods in Canada.
Justice Beverley McLachlin made clear in the ruling that the federal government has a right to set policy, but when policy is translated into state action and law the courts must determine their validity under the charter.
“The discretion vested in the minister of Health is not absolute; as with all exercises of discretion, the minister’s decisions must conform to the charter.”
The ruling could pave way for similar sites in other metropolitan areas.